Pohnpei’s Legislature refuses to seat Ricky Carl as representative of Madolenihmw

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press

 

March 4, 2020

IMG 1765Pohnpei—The Credentials Committee of the Pohnpei State Legislature has refused to seat Ricky Carl to the seat that over 1800 voters of Madolenihmw chose him to occupy.  Speaker Ausen Lambert has declared the seat to be vacant and has transmitted his request that Governor Reed Oliver hold a special election to fill the seat which by law he must now do.

In August of 2019 Pohnpei’s Election Commissioner disallowed Carl’s candidacy for the legislature and also disallowed a request for reconsideration.  At issue was the question of whether or not Carl was a resident of Madolenihmw.  On August 26, Carl filed a legal action at the Pohnpei State Supreme Court and on September 16 the Court ruled in Carl’s favor.  The Court said in its ruling that though the Constitution does require that a candidate be a resident of the municipality he or she is running to represent for three years, both the Constitution and the Pohnpei State Code are silent on whether those years need be consecutive.

Carl had presented evidence that during his lifetime he has lived in Madolenihmw for over 30 years.  He also presented affidavits from Kerpet Hebel, Isipahu, Nahnmwahrki en Madolenihmw, and John Adolph, Iso Nahniken en Madolenihmw both testifying that Carl holds the high title of Luhk en Lengso in Madolenihmw.  Both affidavits testified that the title is never bestowed on a non-resident of Madolenihmw.

The ruling said that it had been proved to the Court that Carl owns land in Madolenihmw and often lives there.

The Election Commissioner appealed the Courts decision but the Apellate Panel did not render a ruling before the election and the Election Commissioner asked the Court to dismiss the appeal.  The September ruling of the Supreme Court is therefore still in place.

In a February 20 letter to Speaker Lambert, Carl asked the Speaker to reconsider.  The letter claimed that he had asked the Credentials Committee to appear before them to provide evidence in support of his position in the matter but that the Committee did not give him that opportunity.  He said that failure was a denial of due process.

Speaker Lambert did not respond to the request but did declare the seat to be vacant and notified the Governor.

The report of the Credentials Committee was issued and adopted on February 11, 2020.  It says that the Election Commissioner’s underlying reason for denying Carl’s petition for candidacy was that in 2003 Carl had registered to vote in Kolonia and didn’t transfer his voter registration until February 4, 2017. The Election Commissioner determined that as a result, Carl did not fulfill the three-year citizenry requirement. “Stated somewhat differently,” the report says, “Ricky Carl’s February 4, 2017 registration date falls 22 days short of the commencement of the Tenth Pohnpei Legislature Term (e.g. January 13, 2020)”

The Committee Report said that its members, cognizant of the Constitutional provision that “the Legislature shall be the sole judge of the qualifications of its members”, met three times to discuss whether Carl had satisfied Constitutional requirement for qualifications for membership.  It said that the Committee decided that in construing the intent of the Constitution, “one should endeavor to divine the plain meaning of the words utilized by the framers.”  They decided that the plainest explanation of the requirement that a candidate “has been a citizen of the local government that he represents for at least three years” is that of an action that began in the past and is still in progress—in other words, it requires at least three consecutive years of residency.  The Committee therefore recommended that Ricky Carl not be seated as a member of the Legislature.

The Committee provides no indication that it ever considered the Pohnpei State Supreme Court’s ruling that said the opposite of what they decided.

A petition demanding that the Legislature seat Ricky Carl as their representative as the voters chose to do during the election has begun widely circulating in Madolenihmw.  It is not certain whether a petition would in any sway the current course that has been set in place by the Speaker’s declaration of the seat as being vacant other than perhaps a political one.